I’ve been watching an early-70’s British series called “The Persuaders”, starring Tony Curtis and Roger Moore as two playboys thrown together to use their wasted talents in solving crimes. It’s the sort of buddy show where the two guys have such chemistry together that you expect the women to come and go like outfits – worn for a day, then tossed in a hamper. And it’s true – there isn’t a single female recurring character on the show.
But these transient babes still come off better than their American equivalents.
The women who float through episodes of “The Persuaders” come in a variety of forms. Innocent bystanders, ruthless schemers, dedicated friends, traitors, capable intelligence agents, morons, etc. The tone of the show is comedy-adventure, and even so it’s more consistent with characterization than most of its American counterparts in the past 30 years. Capable women agents don’t suddenly go all stupid so they can be conveniently caught for plot purposes. Innocent women bystanders may not know judo, but if they have an opportunity to whack someone over the head or go start a car helpfully, they do it instead of standing around knuckle biting. If a woman on this show is going to betray people, her reasons for doing so are established earlier in the episode. And so on.
In short, the Babe of the Week on “The Persuaders” is more developed and consistent than a helluva lot of permanent women characters on American TV. Why is current American TV so far behind British TV from the 60’s and 70’s?